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Full text of "Defence of Fort Gregg"

UZUd DEFENCE OF FORT GREGG. OFFICIAL REPORT 

by 
Genl. J as. H.Lane 



in 
Southern His t.Soc. Papers, January ,18 7 7 



THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 




THE COLLECTION OF 

NORTH CAROLINIANA 

ENDOWED BY 

JOHN SPRUNT HILL 

CLASS OF 1889 



Cp970.78 
L26d 



Defence of Fort Gregg. 19 

As evening came on, questioning of the officers was in order, and 
for an hour it would be, " Captain, when are we going into camp?" 

"I say, lieutenant! are we going to or to blank?" "Seen 

anything of our wagon?" "How long are we to stay here?" — 
"Where's the spring?" Sometimes these questions were meant 
simply to tease, but generally they betrayed anxiety of some sort, 
and a close observer would easily detect the seriousness of the man 
who asked after " our wagon," because he spoke feelingly as one 
who wanted his supper and was in doubt as to whether or not he 
would get it. 

Many a poor fellow dropped in the road and breathed his last in 
the corner of a fence, with no one to hear his last fond mention of 
his loved ones. And many whose ambition it was to share every 
danger and discomfort with their comrades, overcome by the heat 
or worn out with disease, were compelled to leave the ranks, and 
while friend and brother marched to battle, drag their weak and 
staggering frames to the rear, perhaps to die, pitiably alone, in 
some hospital, and be buried as one more "Unknown." 

An accomplished straggler could assume more misery, look more 
horribly emaciated, tell more dismal stories of distress, eat more 
and march further (to the rear), than any ten ordinary men. 
Most stragglers were real sufferers, but many of them were inge- 
nious liars, energetic foragers, plunder hunters and gormandizers. 
Thousands who kept their place in ranks to the very end were 
equally as tired, as sick, as hungry and as hopeless as these scamps, 
but too proud to tell it or use it as a means of escape from hard- 
ship. 

Defence of Fort Gregg. 

[The heroic defence of Fort Gregg showed the spirit of the remnant of our 
grand old army, and illumines the sad page of its history which tells of the 
closing scenes of the " Defence of Petersburg.'''' We have never seen in 
print any official account of the brilliant affair, and are glad to be able to 
present the following from the original MS. report kindly furnished us by 
General James H. Lane.] 

BRIGADIER-GENERAL LANE'S OFFICIAL REPORT. 

Appomattox Courthouse, April 10, 1865. 
Major: 

I have the honor to report that on the night of the 1st of 
April, four regiments of my brigade, with intervals between the 
men varying from six to ten paces, were stretched along the works 



^ 
3 



20 Southern Historical Society Papers. 

between Battery Gregg and Hatcher's Kun, in the following order 
from right to left: Twenty-eighth, Thirty-seventh, Eighteenth, 
Thirty-third — the right of the Twenty-eighth resting near the brown 
house in front of General McRae's winterquarters, and the left of 
the Thirty-third on the branch near Mrs. Banks'. 

The enemy commenced shelling my line from several batteries 
about nine o'clock that night, and the picket lines in my front 
opened fire at a quarter to two o'clock the following morning. The 
skirmishers from McGowan's brigade, who covered the works held 
by my command, were driven in at a quarter to five o'clock, and 
my line was pierced by the enemy in strong force at the ravine in 
front of the right of the Thirty-seventh near General McGowan's 
headquarters. The Twenty-eighth, enfiladed on the left by this 
force, and on the right by the force that had previously broken the 
troops to our right, was forced to fall back to the Plank road. The 
enemy on its left took possession of this road and forced it to fall 
still further back to the Cox road, where it skirmished with the 
enemy and supported a battery of artillery, by order of Brigadier- 
General Pendleton. The other regiments fought the enemy between 
McGowan's winterquarters and those occupied by my brigade, and 
were driven back. They then made a stand in the winterquarters 
of the right regiment of my command, but were again broken, a 
part retreating along the works to the left, and the remainder going 
to the rear. These last, under Colonel Cowan, made a stand on 
the hill to the right of Mrs. Banks', but were forced back to the 
Plank road, along which they skirmished for some time, and then 
fell back to the Cox road, where they supported a battery of 
artillery, by order of Lieutenant-General Longstreet. That portion 
of my command which retreated along the works to the left, made 
two more unsuccessful attempts to resist the enemy, the last stand 
being made in the Church road leading to the Jones House. It 
then fell back to Battery Gregg and the battery to its left; but 
under Major Wooten, and assisted by a part of Thomas' brigade, 
it soon after charged the enemy, by order of Major-General Wilcox, 
and cleared the works as far as the branch on which the left of the 
Thirty-third rested the night previous. Here we were rejoined by 
Colonel Cowan, and we deployed as skirmishers to the left of the 
Church road and perpendicular to" the works, but did not hold this 
position long, as we were attacked by a strong line of skirmishers, 
supported by two strong lines of battle. A part of us retreated to 



Defence of Fort Gregg. 21 

Battery Gregg, and the rest to the new line of works near the 
" Dam." Battery Gregg was subsequently attacked by an immense 
force, and fell after the most gallant and desperate defence. Our 
men bayonetted many of the enemy as they mounted the parapet. 
After the fall of this battery, the rest of my command along the 
new line was attacked in front and flank and driven back to the 
old line of works running northwest from Battery 45, where it 
remained until the evacuation of Petersburg. We were here re- 
joined by the Twenty-eighth, under Captain Linebarger. 

On the afternoon of the 3d, we crossed the Appomattox at 
Goode's bridge, bivouaced at Amelia Courthouse on the 4th, and 
on the 5th formed line of battle between Amelia Courthouse and 
Jetersville, where our sharpshooters, under Major Wooten, became 
engaged. Next day, while resting in Farmville, we were ordered 
back to a fortified hill to support our cavalry, which was hard 
pressed, but before reaching the hill the, order was countermanded. 
We moved rapidly through Farmville, and sustained some loss 
from the artillery fire while crossing the river near that place. 
That afternoon we formed line of battle, facing to the rear, between 
one and two miles from Farmville, and my sharpshooters were 
attacked by the enemy. During the night we resumed our march, 
and on the 9th, while forming line of battle, we were ordered back 
and directed to stack our arms, as the Army o,f Northern Virginia 
had been surrendered. 

My officers and men behaved well throughout this trying cam- 
paign, and superiority of numbers alone enabled the enemy to 
drive us from the works near Petersburg. Colonel Cowan, though 
indisposed, was constantly with his command, and displayed his 
usual gallantry, while Major Wooten nobly sustained his enviable 
reputation as an officer. 

We have to mourn the loss of Captains Nicholson, Faine, 
McAulay and Long, and other gallant officers. 

Captain E. J. Hale, Jr., A. A. G., and First Lieutenant E. B. 
Meade, A. D. C, were constantly at their posts, displaying great 
bravery and giving additional evidence of their efficiency as staff 
officers. 

I am unable to give our exact loss at Petersburg. I surrendered 
at this point fifty-six (56) officers and four hundred and eighty- 
four (484) men — many of the latter being detailed, non-arms-bear- 
ing men, who were sent back to be surrendered with their brigade. 



22 Southern Historical Society Papers. 

The Seventh, the other regiment of my command, is absent in 
North Carolina on detached service. 

I am, Major, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

James H. Lane, 

Brigadier- General. 
Major Joseph A. Engelhard, 

A. A. General. 



Extract from a letter written by General Lane to General' Wikox. 

Concord, N. 0., May 20th, 1867. 
Dear General : 

I received a letter from Major Engelhard not long since, in 

which he says you wish me to furnish you, as far as I can, the 

names of officers killed and wounded in my brigade, and the 

number of men killed and wounded in the different battles from 

the Wilderness to the surrender, as General Lee had desired a 

report of you. 

I beg also to call your special attention to the defence of Fort 
Gregg, as you may not be aware that Harris' brigade has been given 
in print all the credit of that gallant affair. Relative to that, I send 
you a letter recently received from Lieutenant George H. Snow, of 
the Thirty-third North Carolina regiment, who commanded tlje 
detachment from my brigade which was in the fort at the time of 
its fall. Harris' brigade formed on our right after Thomas and I 
had cleared the works of the enemy as far as Mrs. Banks', and 
when we were driven back that brigade retired to the fort above 
Fort Gregg — I think it was called Fort Anderson — while mine re- 
tired along the new line of works to the " Dam," a sufficient number, 
however, being sent to Fort Gregg (with the supernumeraries of 
Walker's artillery armed as infantry) to man the entire work. You 
may perhaps recollect my calling your attention to this, and that 
after looking into the fort, you approved of my turning back other 
men of my command, though you had previously ordered my 
whole brigade into that fort. There were, I think, eight or nine 
commissioned officers of my command in the same fort. 

The honor of the gallant defence of Fort Gregg is due to my 
brigade, Chew's battery and Walker's supernumerary artillerists, 
armed as infantry, and not to Harris' brigade, which abandoned 
Fort Anderson and retired to the old or inner line of works before 
Fort Gregg was attacked in force. Unsupported, I saw our noble 



Defence of Fort Gregg. 23 

fellows repulse three assaults in force in front and one from the 
rear; and the enemy did not succeed in mounting the work until 
the fire of the fort had ceased, which, as Lieutenant Snow says, 
was due to want of ammunition. The enemy, after crowding the 
parapet, amid the wildest cheering and waiving of numerous flags, 
fired down upon our men inside of the works. 

Chew's battery behaved splendidly ; even before I left the work» 
two or three men were shot down in rapid succession while at- 
tempting to discharge a single gun. My men were on the right and 
centre, the supernumerary artillerists on the left, and Chew's battery 
was in the centre, so as to give the pieces the widest possible range 

of fire. 

Yours, very respectfully, 

James H. Lane. 



Letter from Lieutenant George H. Snow, Thirty-third North Carolina 

Regiment. 

Raleigh, May 13th, 1867. 
General James H. Lane : 

Dear sir — Your letter I received some time ago, and would 
have answered it earlier, but was prevented by unforseen circum- 
stances. 

You desire to know the details of the fight at Fort Gregg. I 
think it due to the men of that noble old brigade, which stood the 
contest from Newberne to the surrender, that some true lover of 
patriotism and valor should espouse their cause, and place them 
second to none among the true defenders of that memorable fort. 
History does not reveal names more deserving of honor and praise 
than those of that detachment which I had the honor to command, 
and my mind painfully reverts to the agonizing adieu of each hero 
as he closed his eyes in death. 

I cannot speak positively when I attempt to give the number of 
men belonging to your brigade or the miscellaneous commands in 
the fort, but I speak confidently when I say that at least three- 
fourths were of your brigade. I think I had between seventy-five 
and eighty men all told, with Lieutenants Craige and Howard, and 
two or three other officers whose names I do not recollect. I saw 
only two officers of Harris' brigade in the fort fighting bravely, but 
the number of their command I cannot exactly give, but think 
that ten will cover the whole. The artillerists fought bravely, re- 
sorting to small arms after being unable to use their cannon, and 



24 Southern Historical Society Papers. 

appeared to me as if commanding themselves : they were of Cap- 
tain Chew's battery. Our stubborn resistance is due to your fore- 
sight in supplying the fort with cartridges. 

, The enemy charged us three times, and after having expended 
all our ammunition, rocks were used successfully for over half an 
hour in resisting their repeated attempts to rush over us. While 
I would most willingly accord to each man within the fort his just 
. and. proper credit, yet I do not think that Harris' brigade should be 
mentioned in connection with its defence. I cannot point out a single 
instance where one of Lane's brigade failed to perform his duty on 
that day. The position we occupied (the right wing and centre) 
were the only parts attacked without one moment's interval of 
peace, and we repulsed with great loss an attack in the rear which 
would have otherwise necessitated our surrender. The credit of 
that bloody fight is due to your men, and I sincerely hope you may 
correct so foul a statement as that which appears as history. 
With my best wishes for your welfare and success, 

I remain as ever, yours most sincerely, 

George H. Snow. 



Letter from Lieutenant F. B. Oraige, Thirty-third North Carolina 

Regiment. 

"WlLLIAMSPORT, Tennessee, June 4th, 1867. 
General James H. Lane : 

Dear sir — Yours of the 27th ultimo was remailed to me at 
Salisbury, and received to-day. I am happy to know that you 
intend making an effort to give our old brigade some of the honor 
due her, which has more than once been given others to whom it 
does not belong. 

I will give you as correct an account of the defence of Fort Gregg 
as my recollection will permit. There were but two six-pound 
guns in the fort, conducted by a few Marylanders or Virginians* 
under command of Captain Chew, and a few Louisianians from the 
Washington artillery, under Lieutenant Mackelroy. The whole 
number of artillerists did not exceed twenty-five. Lieutenant- 
Colonel Duncan and his adjutant, of Harris' brigade, both of whom 
were wounded in the head and acted with conspicuous gallantry, 
had with them not more than twenty men. The remainder of the 
troops in the fort belonged to your brigade, numbering between 
one hundred and fifty, and one hundred and seventy-five. The 



Defence of Fort Gregg. 25 

only other officer present of our brigade, whose name you did not 
mention in your letter, was Lieutenant Rigler, of the Thirty-seventh 
regiment. I do not know whether there were any of General 
Thomas' command with us or not. Captain Norwood, of Thomas' 
staff, was captured the same morningthat I was, but I don't remember 
whether on the skirmish line or in the fort. We repulsed the 
enemy three times in front and once from the rear. After our 
ammuniton was exhausted, the men used their bayonets and 
clubbed their guns until the whole wall was covered with blue- 
coats, who continued a heavy fire upon us for several moments after 
they had entered. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

F. B. Craige. 



Letter from Lieutenant A. B. Howard, Thirty-third North Carolina 

Regiment. 

Statesville, N. C, June 3d, 1867. 
General Lane : 

Dear sir — Yours of the 27th instant is at hand, and contents 
duly noticed. I take pleasure in giving you all the information I 
can in reference to the gallant defence of Fort Gregg. I am fully 
confident that three-fourths of the men in the fort, if not more, 
were from your brigade. 

I am glad, indeed, to know that you will give a full and true state- 
ment of the affair to General Lee, and that the gallant men of the Old 
North State, and especially those of Lane's brigade, may have all the 
honor and credit that they so nobly won. 

I fully concur with Lieutenant Snow in his statement concerning 
the number of men from Harris' brigade. I am pretty certain that 
there was only one officer instead of two from that brigade : his 
name was Duncan. He said he was lieutenant-colonel, but there 
were no stars or bars about him to designate his rank. 

The three pieces of artillery belonged to Chew's battery. He 
was captured and taken with us to Johnson's island. I am sorry 
that I am not able to recall the names of the officers from your 
command. I don't remember the names of any except those 
mentioned by yourself. I know there were others besides from our 
brigade in the Thirty-seventh regiment, &c, but as I was not well 
acquainted with them, their names have escaped my recollection. 

We kept the enemy back for some time after our ammunition 



26 Southern Historical Society Papers. 

was exhausted with bayonets and brickbats. "lis true, that when 
they rushed into the fort upon us, they were yelling, cursing and 
shooting with all the frenzy and rage of a hode of merciless bar- 
barians. 

I could give you a full account of the whole engagement from 
beginning to end, but I suppose you have all the particulars from 
Captain Hale and Lieutenant Snow. 

I remain yours, very truly, &c, 

vA. B. Howard. 



Letter from Lieutenant D. M. Rigler, Thirty-seventh North Carolina 

Regiment. 

Charlotte, N". C, June 17th, 1867. 
General James H. Lane : 

Dear sir — Yours of the 14th instant is received, and I hasten 
to reply. You wish me to give all the information I can in regard 
to the defence of Fort Gregg. As it has been so long since it 
occurred, I do not know that I can give all the particulars, but as 
far as I can I will. 

After the enemy drove us from the works, a portion of the bri- 
gade fell back in rear of General Mahone's quarters, and was there 
until you ordered us to the fort. 'Twas near Mahone's quarters 
that General A. P. Hill was killed. When we came to the fort you 
were there with .some of the brigade. You then ordered all of us 
to charge the enemy. We held the Jones road about fifteen min- 
utes. Harris' Mississippi brigade came up; the enemy fired on 
them, and they retreated. Captain Hale then ordered us up to the 
fort. General Wilcox and some of his staff were there: he re- 
mained there until they opened on the fort with artillery. Captain 
Hale called myself, Snow and Craige out in the rear of the fort, 
and asked how many men we had of the brigade and how much 
ammunition. He then told us to send some reliable man after 
ammunition. By this time the Yanks had got the range of the 
fort, and were doing some damage. 

Captain Hale then asked who was the senior officer, and as Snow 
was, he put him in command and told him to hold the fort. We 
formed the men around, and had about fifty or sixty. Harris' men 
came in with a lieutenant-colonel, and about fifteen men more of 
our brigade came in, and made in all about seventy-five of our 
brigade. 



Defence of Fort Gregg. 27 

About ten o'clock the enemy commenced charging with four or 
five lines. We did not fire until they were within forty yards, and 
then we gave them one volley; they wavered, and the first line 
gave way; the second came forward, and came within thirty yards 
of the fort. We yelled and fired — they stood a few seconds and 
then broke. The third retreated also, but the fourth and fifth came 
to the ditch around the fort. While this fighting was in the front, 
one line came in the rear and almost got inside the fort through 
the door. About twenty men charged them, and drove them back. 
About eleven o'clock they scaled the walls of the fort, and for sev- 
eral minutes we had a hand to hand fight. We used the bayonet, 
and killed almo&t all of them that came on the top. 

About half-past eleven they attempted to scale the walls again. 
We met them with the bayonet, and for several minutes it was the 
most desperate struggle I ever witnessed; but it did not last long. 
Soon they were all killed or knocked back, and then a deafening 
shout arose from our boys. Near twelve, they tried to force their 
way through the door in rear of the fort, and succeeded in getting 
almost in, but we met them with the bayonet and drove them back. 
By this time the ammunition was almost out, and our men threw 
bats and rocks at them in the ditch. No ammunition could we 
get, and after a short struggle, they took the fort, and some few did 
fire on us after they got possession, but their officers tried to stop 
them. 

I think there were twenty-five of Harris' Mississippi brigade, 
with a lieutenant-colonel ; do not think there were any more. The 
lieutenant-colonel was wounded. 

There were only two pieces of artillery, and I think they were 
six-pound rifle pieces, and they did not have more than twenty-five 
rounds of ammunition. Most of the men were wounded and killed 
while the enemy were charging. They fought bravely. I do not 
know whose battery it was. 

There were about seventy-five or eighty men of our brigade, and 
five officers, namely : Lieutenants Snow, Craige and Howard, of the 
Thirty-third North Carolina regiment; Orman and myself, of the 
Thirty-seventh regiment. There were about twenty of Thomas' 
Georgia brigade, with Thomas' adjutant-general, or a captain acting 
as such, and two lieutenants. 

I think there were in the fort, including all, about one hundred 
and fifty, or one hundred and seventy-five men — about seventy- 
five or eighty of our brigade, about twenty-five of Harris' and about 



28 Southern Historical Society Papers. 

twenty of Thomas', and twenty-five or thirty of the artillery. Out of 
that number at least one-half were killed and wounded. 

The adjutant-general or captain of Thomas' brigade was near 
me when the fighting commenced, and he said it was ten o'clock, 
and that it was twelve when they got the fort. 

The above, general, I think is nearly correct. It is certain our 
brigade did the most of the fighting, and I think they deserve the 
praise. I am glad that you are going to defend it. 

Wishing you success, I am very respectfully, yours, 

D. M. RlGLER. 



Extract from a letter from Colonel Cowan, of Thirty-third North Carolina 

Regiment. 

Statesville, N. C, June 22, 1876. 
Dear General : 

* * * * Lieutenant Howard has doubtless given 
you all the particulars more fully than I can, as most of my in- 
formation was obtained from him. 

Color Bearer James Atkinson made his escape from Fort Gregg 
after the enemy had entered it, and brought the colors away safely. 

With much respect, your friend, 

R. V. Cowan. 

I was an eye witness to the above. Atkinson ran from the fort 
when the enemy mounted the parapet, and with the colors of the 
Thirty-third North Carolina regiment flying, he made his escape 
without being struck, though he was a marked target for the enemy. 
His exploit was greeted with cheers upon cheers from the men in 
the main line of works. 

James H. Lane. 



Address on the Character of General E. E. Lee, 

Deltvebed in Richmond on Wednesday, January 19th, 1876, the Anniversaby of Genebal 
Lee's Birth, by Captain John Hampden Chamberlayne. 

[We were urged at the time of its delivery by a number of gentlemen who 
heard it to publish this admirable address, and have always purposed doing 
so. It may be well, however, that is has been postponed, so as to appear on 
the eve of another anniversary of the birth of uur great chieftain.] 

Fellow Citizens : 

I shall not obtrude upon you apologies or explanations, as 
if I had the orator's established fame to lose, or looked that future 



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